White House protests live: Aftermath of George Floyd’s death
Tuesday - 02/06/2020 05:24
Military vehicles and helicopters have descended on the US capital - but one tactic usually only used in war zones left protesters furious.
Protesters in Washington D.C are showing no sign of going home despite the US capital now on lockdown as the military and police forcibly arrest people breaking the city’s curfew.
President Donald Trump called in the military earlier today with nine armoured vehicles arriving at the White House to stop protesters edging closer to his home.
Military helicopters are also circling the capital with footage showing an army Black Hawk helicopter flying as low as rooftop level, stirring up dirt and debris and causing trees to break.
The New York Times reported some of the snapped trees fell to the ground and only narrowly missed people.
The low-flying manoeuvre is typically used in war or combat zones and is a well-known show of force used to scare away insurgents. Army soldiers also used the downdraft from the helicopter to spread protesters, who quickly fled to neighbouring streets.
Army blackhawks are conducting “show of force” passes on protestors. One flyover snapped a tree that nearly hit several people. pic.twitter.com/Z8UnQOypYy
As protesters made their way into Chinatown, military helicopters were positioned just above rooftops, sending gusts of dust into the air. A part of a tree fell, nearly hitting passerbys. The crowds dispersed down side streets. Some storefronts were shattered. #DCProtest.
Mr Trump brought the city’s curfew forward to 7pm local time after the city descended into violence and protesters and police clashed across the road from the White House in Lafayette Park on Monday local time.
Audible explosions could be heard from the White House’s Rose Garden - where Mr Trump gave his press conference tonight - as police forcibly moved protesters out of the park so the president could take a photo in front of a church.
A Channel Seven camerman and journalist were caught up in the Lafayette Park chaos with the pair getting hit and shoved by heavily armed officers.
“It’s actually the tear gas that gets you the most,” correspondent Amelia Brace told Sunrise.
“W e’re a bit sore...I actually managed to get a rubber bullet to the backside and Tim (the camerman) got one in the back of the neck so we’ll have a few bruises tomorrow but we’re feeling perfectly safe.”
The days of protests were triggered by the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
Outside the White House, military personnel joined secret service police in military uniforms, along with the National Guard and other levels of law enforcement, who surrounded protesters at Lafayette Park.
Mr Trump’s brief statement tonight was just minutes before Washington D.C’s night curfew was scheduled to come into effect with fears the capital could descend into chaos as protesters and the military clash.
Speaking to reporters from the Rose Garden over the audible bangs and helicopters flying ahead, Mr Trump called on Americans to stop the violence.
“All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. My administration is fully committed that for George and his family, justice will be served,” Mr Trump said.
“He will not have died in vain. But we cannot allow the righteous cries of peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob, the biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities and as their president I will fight to keep them safe.
“I will fight to protect you. I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters, but in recent days our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa and others.
“The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offence to humanity and a crime against God. America needs creation, not destruction. Cooperation not contempt. Security, not anarchy. Healing not hatred. Justice not chaos. This is our mission and we will succeed 100 per cent, we will succeed. Our country always wins.”
Thousands of peaceful protesters were shoved away from the park using tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the way for the president to take a picture in front of St John’s Church in downtown Washington D.C.
The church was damaged on Sunday night after looters set fire to part of it.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington told CNN the community did not approve of Mr Trump’s move.
“Let me be clear. The President just used a bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese without permission as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our churches stand for. And to do so, as you just said, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard. I am outraged. The President did not pray when he came to St. John's," she told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "Nor, as you just articulated, did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now. And in particular, that of the people of color in our nation, who wonder if anyone ever — anyone in public power will ever acknowledge their sacred worth, and who are rightfully demanding an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country."
The demonstrations turned violent in several cities, with people trashing stores, smashing and burning police cars and igniting fires in historic Lafayette Park across from the White House.
Mr Trump told reporters he was “taking immediate action” to stop the protests.
“I am mobilising all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting, looting, to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your second amendment rights,” he said.
“Therefore, the following measures are going into effect immediately. First we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now.
“Today I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets. Mayors and governors must establish and overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.
“If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.
“I am also taking swift and decisive action to protect our great capital - Washington DC. What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace.
“As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily-armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.”
Mr Trump was reportedly rushed to the White House bunker on Friday night as protests became violent and his security team feared his safety was compromised.The president was in the bunker for just under an hour.
The demonstrations in Washington appeared to catch officers by surprise.
They sparked one of the highest alerts at the White House complex since the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Mr Trump reportedly told advisers he worried about his safety, while both privately and publicly praising the work of the Secret Service.
Demonstrators returned over the weekend, facing off against police at Lafayette Park into the evening.
Mr Trump retweeted a message from a conservative commentator encouraging authorities to respond with greater force.
“This isn’t going to stop until the good guys are willing to use overwhelming force against the bad guys,” Buck Sexton wrote in a message amplified by the president.